Although you might be surprised, humans have done more than just fight each other since the dawn of time! We’ve been capable of producing some of the most beautiful and enlightening works of art, but more than that, we simply love to document the present for the benefit of those in the future. So, let’s take a trip back through time and look at all the amazing ways that humans have documented history.
10. Cave art
It’s thought that the earliest paintings first discovered would have appeared in caves and shelters at least 40,000 years ago. Cave art has been found all over the world, but it perhaps best preserved in European countries, such as France, Spain, England, and Italy. While it’s hard to know exactly why early humans painted art on caves (using a mixture of iron oxides and charcoal), most are considered to be for religious purposes. Hand stencils have even been found in parts of the world, including Australia and the United States.
The Ancient Egyptians used hieroglyphics to write, but what’s most different than what we know today is that they used pictures, rather than words, to form sentences. The system was incredibly complicated, and only a chosen “Scribe” would learn how to write hieroglyphics after years and years of training. There were thousands of symbols, with multiple meanings possible from the same symbol. In 1799, a stone was found in the city of Rosetta, which led to experts being able to decipher the Egyptian language because the same message was written in hieroglyphics and Greek. Egyptians would write on the walls, stone tablets, but also a type of paper named papyrus.
The written word has obviously been around for thousands and thousands of years, but it’s thought that the invention of the printing press in 1440 marks the year we saw books produced in the way we know today. Previously, books were much more scarce and often holy items. After the printing press, books became more affordable and widely distributed, to the point where we can now find them in virtually any shop or online store today. You can even try your own book printing with print24, which would have been unthinkable at earlier points in human history!
Of course, for nearly every physical book, we can now pick up a digital version of the same content. eBooks have revolutionized the world, as you read dozens of stories and biographies through tablets, phones, or even laptops. Although they are usually cheaper to buy, there are still some who will prefer a real book to hold in their hands, but the fact that readers have the choice of an eBook is still quite amazing.
Plays, music, news, weather, interviews… we get all this and more via the great medium that is radio. Before TV, a radio was definitely one of the most important gadgets in the house because it really connected you with the outside world. In World War II especially, it was quite common for groups of people and family members to all huddle around the radio and wait for news concerning the conflict. Although there’s a bit of contention regarding who invented the radio, most agree that it was Italian inventor Guglielmo Marconi, who first sent a radio signal in 1895.
What you could call an offshoot from radio, podcasts have hit the big time since the last five years. Everyone seems to have a podcast these days, as they are convenient to produce, easy to listen to, can be monetized, and streamed and downloaded from anywhere in the world. Actors, musicians, politicians, and people from all walks of life routinely appear on popular podcasts as guests, with some of the most well-known shows including 30 for 30, The Habitat, and Binge Mode. These can be heard on iTunes, Spotify, and several other providers completely for free.
Naturally, the trusty pen and paper is convenient to write down thoughts or ideas, but it’s hard to dismiss the accessibility that a computer brings us. Imagine writing out a 10,000-word essay by hand or misspelling a word on paper and wondering if you should start it all again! Computers, particularly with programs such as Microsoft’s Word and Excel, let us document words and numbers effortlessly. The idea of a device capable of such things has been around for hundreds of years, but it could be said that it was Konrad Zuse who got the ball rolling, selling the Z1 computer back in 1942. Companies like Apple, Dell, and IBM would later take the art of manufacturing and selling home computers and laptops to a new level.
Without computers, we definitely don’t get the Internet and all the blogs and social media platforms that exist within this digital network. Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Twitch, YouTube – and many other websites that allow someone to communicate with others and document themselves online – all require an Internet connection to function. Many people were involved in making the net, but the Internet as most people know, called the World Wide Web, is reported to be created by computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee in 1990.
2. TV & Movies
What would history be without TV and movies? These mediums can permeate the minds of the general society like no other. We watch them for entertainment, to be enlightened, and these shows and films are still watched and loved decades later after being made. A young inventor named Philo Taylor Farnsworth – only 21 years old – created the very first television in 1927. Color TV came much later in 1965, as everything before this was in black and white. Film has been around much longer, and although we might take big action blockbusters with stunning computer graphics for granted now, it was merely a running horse that was first captured on film in 1888 by French inventor Louis Le Prince.
We’ve come a long way from handheld cameras to using smartphones to record photos. Images capture a moment in time and give us the chance to recollect and think back on the past. Joseph Nicéphore Niépce took the first photograph in 1826, and although the image is a bit hard to discern, it’s the view from his upstairs window at his estate in France. Later on in 1838, it was Louis Daguerre who took supposedly the first image with people in the shot – a man getting his shoes shined on a street in Paris. Overall, these are some of the most important images ever to be taken in our history.